How Yoga Can Help You On the Job
For the study, researchers conducted two experiments with 30 undergraduate women. In the first experiment, participants were shown a series of arrows on a screen and asked to press the button that corresponded with the direction the arrow pointed. On the first day of this test, the participants did no physical activity beforehand. On the second, they did a 20-minute treadmill workout, and on the third they did 20 minutes of Hatha yoga, a broad term used to describe any kind of yoga that incorporates physical postures and deep breathing (Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and Iyengar are all considered forms of Hatha yoga). In the second experiment, participants were asked to look at a series of shapes and use a keypad to indicate whether they’d seen the shape before. In both tasks, participants performed significantly better after doing yoga than they did after doing aerobic exercise or no exercise.
“Yoga is a mind-body activity,” says study author Neha Gothe, PhD, kinesiology professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. “The mental exercises in yoga reduce anxiety and stress, and that in itself can lead to better cognitive performance.” What’s more, when you do yoga correctly, you focus on your breath and movements and suppress distracting thoughts, which teaches you to become more present in the moment, she says.
Previous research has shown that regular aerobic exercise—even walking—can boost your brain’s performance. But unlike the benefits of aerobic exercise, which take a while to kick in, yoga has a pretty immediate effect on your mind—so you’ll feel it just 30 minutes after you say “Namaste,” says Gothe.
The next time you’re facing a stressful event, try the 20-minute yoga sequence used in the study: You should aim to do it about 30 to 40 minutes before the stressful event to reduce anxiety and improve your focus. Perform the first eight poses in a sequence, holding each position for about 30 seconds. Then repeat the sequence on the other side before you progress to the final resting pose.
4. Reverse Triangle Pose